Congratulations! Dommaraju Gukesh and Tan Zhongyi celebrate their birthdays

by Johannes Fischer
5/29/2024 – Astrologers may feel vindicated. After all, Dommaraju Gukesh, the winner of the 2024 Candidates Tournament, and Tan Zhongyi, the winner of the 2024 Women's Candidates Tournament, were both born on 29 May, Gukesh in Chennai, India, in 2006 and Tan Zhongyi in Chongqing, China, in 1991. Congratulations! | Photos: David Llada (Gukesh) and Lennart Ootes (Tan Zhongyi)

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Dommaraju Gukesh

Gukesh's father was a surgeon and his mother a microbiologist. Gukesh took up chess at the age of 5 and quickly achieved success, whereupon his parents did all they could to support their son's career. His father even gave up his job as a surgeon to accompany Gukesh to tournaments. The parents also take their son out of school to give him more time to concentrate on chess.

The hard work and dedication paid off. In 2018, Gukesh became U12 World Champion and just one year later, in 2019, at the age of 12 years, seven months and 17 days, he secured the title of Grandmaster. At the time, he was the second youngest grandmaster of all time behind Sergey Karjakin and is regarded as one of the world's greatest talents.

Gukesh at the Isle of Man Tournament 2018 | Photo: Alina l'Ami

Nevertheless, the rate at which Gukesh is improving is astonishing. He made a big splash at the 2022 Chess Olympiad in India when he played for India 2 on board 1 and started the Olympiad with 8 wins in a row. He finished with 9 points from 11 games and an Elo rating of 2867, winning the gold medal for the best performance on board 1.

In August 2023, Gukesh became the youngest player ever to break the 2750 Elo barrier, and in April 2024, he became the youngest ever World Championship challenger when he won the Candidates Tournament in Toronto. He scored an important victory in the 13th and penultimate round against Alireza Firouzja.

The crucial phase of the game between Gukesh and Alireza Firouzja at the Candidates Tournament 2024 | Foto: Michal Walusz

Robert Ris had a closer look at this important game:

The win gives Gukesh the sole lead in the standings, with a half-point advantage over Hikaru Nakamura, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Fabiano Caruana going into the final round. This win also breaks a remarkable streak of Nepomniachtchi, as Nepomniachtchi, who is playing his third consecutive Candidates Tournament in Toronto - he won the first two - had always been the sole or shared leader in the last 36 rounds of the Candidates Tournaments.

In the final round of the Candidates Tournament, Gukesh once again showed good nerves. He easily drew with Black against Nakamura and thus secured at least shared first place. But after Caruana and Nepomniachtchi drew a dramatic game in which Caruana missed several good chances to win, Gukesh is the sole winner of the 2024 Candidates Tournament, making him the youngest ever World Championship challenger at the age of just 17.

Tan Zhongyi

Like Gukesh, the Chinese player Tan Zhongyi was born on 29 May and, like Gukesh, she won the 2024 Candidates Tournament in Toronto - the women's Candidates Tournament. Both ended up with 9 points from 14 games with 5 wins, 8 draws and one loss.

Tan Zhongyi is 15 years older than Gukesh. Born in the Chinese city of Chongquing in 1991, her talent was evident from an early age. She was U10 world champion in 2000 and 2001 and U12 world champion in 2002.

However, she is not completely committed to chess, but is studying ‘Finance and Economics’ in Shanghai after finishing school, where she will graduates in 2009.

But she remains one of the best players in the world. In 2015, she became Chinese champion and two years later, in 2017, she celebrated the biggest success of her career to date when she won the Women's World Championship, which automatically gave her the title of Grandmaster. However, just one year later, in 2018, she lost the world title again when she was defeated by her compatriot Ju Wenjun in the World Championship match. However, Tan Zhongyi secured another world title in 2022 when she won the Women's World Rapid Chess Championship.

Tan Zhongyi on her way to win the Women's Candidates Tournament | Photo: Michal Walusz

Tan Zhongyi's victory at the Candidates Tournament in Toronto was a commanding one. She took an early lead and finished 1.5 points ahead of her closest rivals. As she explained after the tournament, she herself was surprised by her victory as she had recently been concentrating less on tournament chess and more on her work as a coach and promoting her chess club.

Tan Zhongyi played her best game in Toronto in Round 6, when she scored a spirited attacking victory against Anna Muzychuk.

Gukesh will play reigning world champion Ding Liren for the World Championship title from 20 November to 15 December 2024, while Tan Zhongyi will play Ju Wenjun for the Women's World Championship in 2025, the exact date yet to be determined.

If they both win their world championship matches, the world champion and the women's world champion would have their birthdays on the same day. An unlikely coincidence - although astrologers may see it differently.

More about Gukesh...

More about Tan Zhongyi...

Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".
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